It’s easier than ever to fill up a portable device with music to take on the road. A free Windows program called FreeMake YouTube MP3 Converter can collect music and voice from any YouTube video. This lets you make your own playlist from favorite movie scenes and concerts. You might also want to take up dialogue from great movie moments.
We think there’s nothing better than the blues and jazz from the movie "The Blues Brothers." So we tested FreeMake by pulling a couple of the best scenes from that movie (they’re all great) into our computer. The program quickly and easily converted the music to digital. We picked up some voice along the way as well, getting a few seconds of Ray Charles before he went into his piano rendition of "Shake a Tail Feather." Then we collected Aretha Franklin singing "Respect" from the same movie.
Warning: During installation, be sure to click on "custom" and then uncheck boxes for any extras it wants to install. This is stuff you would not normally want to have since it just gunks up your computer. You’ll actually have to click "custom" twice to be sure you’re not getting unwanted junk. The only box we left checked was the one that created an icon for our desktop, to make finding the program easier.
The program has more than 100 million users, but we found their FreeMake YouTube Downloader, another free program, even handier. Though it’s illegal to download YouTube videos for commercial use, saving them for your own enjoyment seems harmless. And for some frosting on the cake: The program strips out ads.
CUTTING THE CORD
According to Forbes Magazine, a fifth of American TV watchers are "definitely" or "probably" going to drop cable TV this year. That’s around 20 million people. Are they right? Should you join them?
Using Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, you can get everything but the latest movies, and cut your home entertainment bill by 80 percent or more. (It seems likely that cable companies will respond by merging.) If you like older movies, you’ll find a lot of them for free on YouTube. We recently watched "The Egyptian," a lavish production with big-name stars.
That all comes in over the Internet. To bring in some free broadcast channels you just need to add an antenna to your TV set. Aye, there’s the rub. Roof antennas work pretty well, but if you live in an apartment, that’s just not practical.
The best and lightest antenna we’ve tried so far is the FlatWave Indoor HDTV Antenna from Winegard ($34 at Amazon). It weighs only a third of an ounce and is a little bigger than a sheet of letter paper. It’s so thin (two-one hundredths of an inch) we thought at first it was a piece of the packaging. But its rubbery feel saved it from the trash can. Plug it in, hang it on the wall or place it near a window, and scan for channels. We just tossed it behind the TV, and got 18 channels right away. Most came in crystal clear, like high definition TV. A few had pictures that broke up into little pieces, but we’ve had that happen on some cable channels as well.
These channels do not come in from a cable service. If you Google "over the air broadcast schedule," these are channels usually listed with a decimal point, 5.1, for example, instead of channel five. Many of them show movies, often some pretty good movies.
The easiest way to find any of the Internuts is to search on the phrase we provide below.
•"15 Incredible Photos of Things Cut in Half" Search on that phrase to see how odd things look inside. A Leica camera lens looks incredibly complex, jawbreaker gum balls are beautiful, an engine is a marvel and a photo copy machine looks bizarre.
•"This Couple Makes Beautiful Illuminated Dioramas From Hand-Cut Paper" has some remarkable art works cut from paper.
•"16 Rooms With a View You’ll Wish You Had" has some of the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen in London, Cape Cod, the Australian Alps and beyond.
•"The 22 Most Beautifully Secluded Places In The World" are lovely beyond belief, including an island in Iceland, the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Peak District in England, Mount Shuksan of Washington state, parts of Ireland and all over the world.
•"Dolphin Asks a Diver for Help, Diver Lends a Hand." In this amazing video, a dolphin gets untangled from a fishing line by swimming to a diver for help and staying with him until he’s freed.
•"Eleven Steps to a Perfect Logo" has good tips.
SAT PREPARATION ONLINE
KhanAcademy.com has free preparation for the SAT college entrance exam and other tests. They’re offering hundreds of previously unreleased math, reading and writing questions from old SAT tests, and 200 videos showing step-by-step solutions to each question.
Tidy Dog trains a dog to put away his own toys. It’s not for sale yet, but if enough people back it on Kickstarter.com, the crowdfunding site, you’ll see it in stores.
It’s worth watching the Tidy Dog video. A dog figures out that every time he drops a toy into the bin, it dispenses a treat. Smart dogs will soon figure out that they can drop in your shoes, wallet, newspaper and anything else lying around. Some people will be ecstatic over a tidy home; others will notice their dog getting fat. Of course, lazy dogs may not care about the treats. In that case, if you want the toys picked up, you do it.
We’re constantly pitched about new shopping sites, but here’s a tip that may beat all of them: Type the word "coupon" after the name of the store or product. Bob typed "Lands End Coupon" and got 20 percent off from LandsEnd.com. Joy typed "Niemen Marcus coupon" and saw dresses for 70 percent off. But they were still too expensive. Bob typed "ceramic knives coupon" and got 50 percent off on his favorite Kyocera knives.